1902 – 2012
Edinburgh’s beloved ‘Grande Dame’ is celebrating its 110th year at the capital’s most prestigious address.
The Balmoral opened its doors at 1 Princes Street on 15th October 1902 as the North British Station Hotel. Taking its place on the Edinburgh skyline in the heart of the city, the hotel linked the Scottish architecture of the Old Town with the classical architecture of the New Town.
The hotel’s roots were quite literally in the railway with a dedicated entrance from Waverley Station to the hotel and the iconic clock tower was set three minutes fast to allow travelers to catch their trains - a tradition which has remained to this day with the exception of Hogmanay for the city’s New Year street party.
The North British Railway Company owned the property for over 80 years until it was sold in 1983 to The Gleneagles Hotel Company. In 1990 Balmoral International Hotels purchased the building and closed the doors for over a year to complete a £23-million refurbishment. The company recaptured the splendor of the hotel and invited Sir Sean Connery to cut the ribbon on the official re-opening of newly named hotel ‘The Balmoral’ - meaning ‘majestic dwelling’ in Gaelic.
On 1st March 1997, Sir Rocco Forte purchased The Balmoral as the first in his new collection of luxury five star hotels. The location held a strong connection to the Forte family with Sir Rocco’s father, Lord Forte, spending most of his childhood in Scotland.
Over the years, a regular stream of royalty, film stars, sports and music personalities, politicians and literary figures visited the hotel including The Queen Mother, Laurel and Hardy, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul and Linda McCartney, The Rolling Stones and Luciano Pavarotti.
The Balmoral has undergone a series of refurbishments over the past 15 years with Rocco Forte Hotels at the helm, most recently with a three year soft refurbishment project of all its bedrooms and bathrooms which was completed in June 2012.
Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Director of Design, took inspiration for the interior of the new rooms from the earthy colours of the moors, mists and heathers associated with the Scottish countryside. Stylish new Italian marble bathrooms have also been fitted to all 188 bedrooms, many featuring iconic Sir Sean Connery prints from the 1962 James Bond film ‘Dr No’ – a nod to the ‘Freeman of the City’ who opened the hotel in the early 90s.
The hotel has gone from strength to strength with 2012 marking, not only the 110th anniversary of the hotel but the 11th year of Michelin-star status at fine-dining restaurant number one; Executive Chef Jeff Bland’s Chef of the Year accolade at the 2012 Scottish Restaurant Awards and The Balmoral being named as one of the Top 10 Luxury Hotels in the UK in Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards.